Sometimes, a Perfect Vacation isn’t complete without a truly memorable dining experience – something not meant for every day. If you’re looking for a restaurant that captures the elegance of a fine dining experience, the freshest ingredients prepared in the most inspired ways, and views so spectacular they must have been created by Imagineers – look no further than California Grill.
The Contemporary Resort is home
Photo by Disney Photo Snapper
California Grill is located in just about the perfect spot at WDW. It is on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort, just about the highest location in all of Disney World. You can see Miami from the California Grill. OK, maybe Miami is an exaggeration, but you can see a long way.
Seasonal, Spectacular, Special Occasions
Dad loves Disney dining experiences from Casey’s Corner to Cinderella’s Royal Table to Teppan Edo. But sometimes the occasion calls for an extra-special meal – and WDW has several signature fine-dining options. When you’re planning to splurge and treat someone you love, California Grill is probably a spot that’s at the top of your list.
When dining here, not only are you treated to the most amazing views on property, but the food is some of the best you’ll find anywhere. To top it all off, an amazing view of Wishes is included – whether you’re dining during the fireworks or hang around to view the show from the exclusive observation deck – the vantage point simply cannot be beat!
Photo by Tom Simpson
Exclusivity is the first element that sets California Grill apart from many other restaurants at Walt Disney World. Located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, guests proceed to a check in podium on the 2nd floor. From there, a private elevator will whisk you to the 15th floor where you’ll emerge into the restaurant’s foyer.
Recently, California Grill went under a huge renovation – everything from the furniture to the menu to the windows were replaced! Sweeping views across the Seven Seas Lagoon to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and the Magic Kingdom are the first feature you’ll notice. The floor to ceiling windows are specially treated to block UV light and provide the best views.
The décor is next – modern, warm, and inviting with comfortable seating, clean lines and curves, sparkling glass, crisp white linens, and interesting lighting features. The vibe is relaxed enough to enjoy your meal, but formal enough to mark a special occasion. Dinner is the only meal served here, and the sunset adds to the ambiance and was the inspiration for much of the look and feel of the restaurant.
Finally, the onstage kitchen stands out as a centerpiece of the main dining room (2 private dining rooms, a quieter side dining room, and a lounge are the other spaces you’ll find at California Grill). The bustling activity of wait staff and sommeliers, the exciting creations of the chefs coming to life, and guests dressed up for an evening out all add to the lively atmosphere.
A quick note on the dress code: while many dining spots at WDW are very casual, California Grill requests that gentlemen wear jeans, slacks, khakis, or dress shorts with a collared shirt (but jackets are optional). Ladies are expected to wear skirts, dresses, capirs, jeans, or dress shorts and a nice top. Tank tops, hats, swim wear and coverups, torn or offensive clothing are not permitted.
The Food Looks Good!
Photo by Jeff Christiansen
California Grill features (surprise!) California style cuisine – you’ll see a lot of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and global fusion techniques. Everything is prepared to the highest standards and quality ingredients are a big focus.
You can use 2 Table Service Credits on the Disney Dining Plan to eat here, and if you’re paying out of pocket, expect the bill to come in at $30-60 per person for an entrée and non-alcoholic beverage (before tax and tip). Adding starters, desserts, or adult drinks will increase that cost considerably. Like Dad said – it’s not for every day!
The menu changes seasonally, so items available are constantly different, but to give you an idea of the types of dishes and prices you’ll find, here’s a quick run down:
- Appetizers are in the $15-18 range, and include items like chili-coffee rubbed pork flatbread fired in a brick oven, cheese or charcuterie boards, and Sonoma goat cheese ravioli in a tomato fennel broth.
- Sushi cost $22-26 per order. Items include tuna four ways, yuzu marinated sashimi, and pork belly nigiri.
- Soups and salads come in at $12-28 for dishes like caramelized spring onion soup with jumbo lump carb meat or baby beet and citrus salad.
- Entrees range from $35-50 and include pork two ways, bison strip loin, oak fired filet of beef, and a few other offerings.
- Desserts are $13 and include options like a sundae sampler and warm homemade fritters.
- Kids appetizers (iceberg wedge salad or grilled veggie lettuce wraps) are $5, a cheese pizza is $9, Mickey Check meals (pasta, chicken breast, or beef tenderloin) are $14-15, and desserts are $5-6 (puffed rice sushi, fruit, or cookies and cream).
Another big focus here is wine – inspired by California’s vineyard culture. Over 300 wines are available, many by the glass, and a team of sommeliers are on hand to help with pairing suggestions. Wine education and knowledge are a big part of the meal if you are choosing to imbibe (which is not at all required to enjoy a meal here!). Glasses are typically $10-20 and bottles will run $60-400.
Beer and cider – from standard Bud Light to fancy craft varieties from across the country and overseas are available for $5-11. And a signature cocktail menu with high-end spirits and artistic presentation (sake martini, napa blue martini, cucumber fizz) are $9-12.
Another Fireworks Picture
Photo by Disney Photo Snapper
Reservations are highly sought after for California Grill – if you’d like to eat here, make your reservations 180 days in advance. Or, if you have a great Disney Travel Agent like Dad’s friends at Destinations to Travel, they can help sort you out.
Dad's Bottom Line
California Grill is a really nice place for a special dinner like an engagement or an anniversary. The food is outstanding, and the views and fireworks are a great part of the experience. It’s worth a splurge at least once!